Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

Or happy new year --- lunar new year that is. In Vietnam, and the greeting here is in Vietnamese, it is called Tet; in other cultures, largely Buddhist, other things. If you’re a speaker of Mandarin, the appropriate greeting is “Gung Hay Fat Choi!” which in general means “may you have great happiness and prosperity.” If you’re going to use “Gung Hay Fat Choi!” try repeating it three times, each time with a respectful bow, to incorporate the past, the present and the future.

This is the eve of Tet 2010 and Sunday, the first day of celebration, although like the western new year, festivities generally begin the night before.

A principal pleasure of my time in Vietnam was the fact that my job and its setting involved being a rare American in a sea of Vietnamese civilians, some of whom became close friends. I was invited to celebrate Tet once among friends in those uncertain and ultimately disastrous times and still remember the joy of it and have tried since to keep track of Tet when it rolls around.

This will be the Year of the Tiger, an auspicious symbol in troublesome times offering courage and inviting bold action and risk-taking. We’ll see how that works out.


There’s a lot of joy converging around this sorrowful old world this weekend --- a perfect storm as someone put it this morning. The Chinese new year (Tet) in its various incarnations for one; Valentine’s Day for another --- a rare celebration of human love romantic and otherwise. Festivities leading up to Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) next week are under way in various places, a celebration of joyful excess before Ash Wednesday and the austere and penitential season of Lent.


And then the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and nearby venues. I stayed up past my bedtime last night to watch the entire opening ceremony plus lighting of not one but two Olympic torches.

The ceremony was spectacular, I thought, but then I’m easily amused by bright and shiny stuff. The prominent place given to First Nations people --- welcome from the peoples in whose territory Vancouver and other venues are located then introduction of the First Nations of the northwest, north, northeast and prairie. Talk about athletes. Those guys and gals danced nonstop throughout the long parade of nations and still had plenty of energy left for a fairly spectacular show introducing the cultural part of the program. I loved the Celtic fiddles and dancing and the young man who flew above the prairie was incredibly graceful and other-worldly. The tragic death earlier in the day of a Georgian athlete was handled beautifully. It was the sort of thing that makes you proud to be a neighbor of Canadians, First Nations and otherwise.

I’m a hopeless fan of the Olympics, summer and winter, unusual for someone who is not in any other way a sports fan, so I’ll be spending quite a bit of time in front of the television for the next couple of weeks. Once every four years, at least, it seems that there’s still hope for the world and its people.

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